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Discussions of pedagogy and instructional design often entail their impact upon the cognitive systems of learners, knowledge transfer, and efforts to organize, facilitate and evaluate learning activities. Learning systems have undergone a demonstrable shift in focus from those based in instructivist theory and approaches (logical positivism and identifiable/fixed truth) to constructivist concepts (knowledge as a social construction) and practices, particularly as they take shape in the activities comprising problem-based learning (PBL). A technological one has accompanied this pedagogical shift. The Internet has made possible a transformation and increase in the methods of implementing the best practices and reaching greater numbers of potential learners through systems of distributed education. This paper examines how the design and implementation of problem solving tools used in programming instruction are complementary with both the fundamental theories of problem-based learning (PBL) and the pedagogy and practices of distributed education environments. A discussion of how such learning tools can be used to bridge the constructivist foundation of PBL with the needs of distributed education is suggested. We then consider how combining PBL, web-based distributed education and a problem solving environment can create effective learning environments in a variety of disciplines and modes.